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From E-Waste to Play Space: The First Steps of a Sustainable Retro Gaming Journey

A discarded Thinkpad t60p was transformed into a retro gaming console using Batocera, promoting sustainability, mental health, and social connections while demonstrating innovative e-waste reduction.

Published onNov 13, 2023
From E-Waste to Play Space: The First Steps of a Sustainable Retro Gaming Journey

In today's fast-paced tech world, we often upgrade to the latest gadgets, leaving behind older devices that slowly drift towards obsolescence. This ever-growing e-waste mountain has been an environmental concern for quite some time. However, a creative and nostalgic solution has been discovered to address this issue head-on.

Discovering Treasure Amidst Trash

On a usual day, an old Thinkpad t60p laptop was found discarded in our university's standard garbage container. This garbage container is central in supplying us with hardware in our IDG3006 course. The laptop's screen was broken and nonfunctional, suggesting a reason for its end. But instead of seeing just another piece of e-waste, we saw potential. We tested the laptop with an external screen, a previous discovery from the same garbage container, and found the laptop fully functional. We removed the broken screen assembly, disassembled the device, and thoroughly cleaned the hardware. This was the first step in its rebirth.

Garbage container NTNU

Treasure box on campus

We installed Batoceraa a Linux-based retro gaming system, into the laptop's 100GB HDD. The dated hardware made it the perfect platform for lightweight retro gaming, such as SNES and SEGA Megadrive classics.

Student Engagement and Sustainability Awareness

This repurposing approach wasn't just about nostalgia and gaming. Having a retro console in the student common area offers multiple benefits for students' mental health. Engaging in these classic games fosters social connections as students gather, compete, and collaborate, reducing feelings of isolation. Additionally, retro games' rhythmic and predictable nature provides a calming distraction, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety and making the common area a haven for relaxation and camaraderie.

The Rebirth of a Thinkpad

The Rebirth of a Thinkpad

Furthermore, the console serves as a potent reminder of how we can find creative solutions to the issue of e-waste. Today, it's a laptop turned into a gaming console; tomorrow, it might be smartphones turned into educational tools or old tablets into digital art canvases.

Looking Ahead

To dive deeper into the impact of this initiative, a survey was rolled out to gather student feedback, gauge opinions about the system, and understand motivations and learning approaches towards upcycling. The ultimate goal? Find compelling reasons to repurpose dated hardware instead of simply discarding it. We're even considering designing a cabinet around the hardware, giving it the look and feel of a proper arcade machine. Feedback collection is still underway, so stay connected for the results!

Once considered trash, the old Thinkpad and PC screen symbolize sustainable innovation. We hope this journey inspires others to re-think e-waste. Sustainability is more than just a buzzword—it's a mindset. By embracing opportunities to upcycle, we champion a greener planet and create unique experiences that bring joy and learning.

The next time you're about to discard a dated gadget, think of our Thinkpad's second life. Perhaps your old device also has an exciting new chapter waiting to unfold. 🌿🎮

Related links

Batocera PC retro gaming guide. Wagner’s TechTalk. (n.d.).

Oyenuga, A. A., Bhamidimarri, R., & Researcher, P. D. (2017). Upcycling ideas for sustainable construction and demolition waste management: Challenges, opportunities and boundaries. International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, 6(3), 4066-4079.

Stevens, A. (2013). New Uses for Old Phones: Upcycling the Rotary Dial Phone in the Age of the Smartphone (Doctoral dissertation, OCAD University).

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